‘The Suicide Squad’ Review: A Self-Aware (and Self-Congratulatory) Sequel

In the history of low cinematic bars to clear, this has to be at the bottom of the barrel; just be better than what is considered one of the worst superhero films ever made.

“The Suicide Squad” is a standalone sequel to the 2016 film of the (almost) same name, and features the titular team coming together to destroy a Nazi-era lab on a remote island. Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, Sylvester Stallone, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, and Peter Capaldi star while James Gunn writes and directs.

I recently rewatched the 2016 film for the first time since theaters and while it’s not the total worst thing, it is still a tonally confused Frankenstein of a movie. James Gunn was hired to direct the sequel after being (temporarily) fired from Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” and promised to return the series to its graphic R-rated roots. The resulting film certainly is an improvement upon its predecessor with fun to be had, however that doesn’t mean it’s without flaws.

One of the few things that worked about the first film was the cast, and here most actors deliver. Joel Kinnaman is able to be a little bit more goofy than the stoic character he played last time around, and Jai Courtney again somehow manages to turn in a fun performance despite being bland in seemingly every other film he shows up in. It’s nice to see the likes of Viola Davis and Pete Davidson hamming it up and earning a fun paycheck, and Sylvester Stallone takes a page out of the Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel playbook of spending one day in a sound booth voicing a CGI creature.

Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn character has never really worked for me, I find her more annoying than fun. But here she at least manages to be a step down on the irritation scale compared to her solo “Birds of Prey” performance, so there’s that.

The action is fun and bloody, following in the footsteps of a “Deadpool” or first “Expendables” where people explode into over-the-top puddles of blood and guts at the simplest touch. Gunn has a vision and he executes it, and people only looking for mindless violence will get their kicks.

The biggest issue with the film is Gunn as a writer. He has always been very self-satisfied with his scripts, with both “Guardians” movies never being as much fun as they think they are. The same problem lingers here, with Gunn never being able to find the right balance between action and comedy, and then setting up a climax that feels incredibly tacked-on.

“The Suicide Squad” is a step-up from its predecessor and a fun ride through the first 100 minutes. It’s a shame the final bit stretches and feels high-on-its-own-supply, because it may leave some walking out the theater (or turning off HBO Max) with a sour taste in their mouth. Still, I was more entertained than not, and appreciate the DCEU films for feeling like unique works from directors and not cookie-cutter blockbusters; just maybe next time find a director who isn’t so proud of his own work.

Critics Rating: 6/10

Warner Bros.

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